Will GB News survive the launch of TalkTV?

Rupert Murdoch’s new channel hopes to outclass its beleaguered rival

Piers Morgan
Piers Morgan features on TalkTV’s opening night
(Image credit: Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

Rupert Murdoch’s new television channel, TalkTV, is set to launch this evening with an interview of Donald Trump by Piers Morgan.

Media mogul Murdoch is attempting to “upset Britain’s broadcasting establishment at a time when questions hang over his global media empire”, reported the Financial Times. Success for the channel would help News Corp recover from its phone-hacking scars.

After “months of preparation”, the newspaper said insiders are “quietly confident that the fledgling channel will avoid the kind of production problems that marred the launch of right-leaning rival GB News last summer”.

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In fact, comparisons with GB News with have been “rife”, noted Press Gazette, but it appears TalkTV is “confident it can produce a better launch than its rival”. GB News is led by Angelos Frangopoulos, who was until 2018 the boss at Murdoch’s Sky News Australia.

Despite commentary suggesting that TalkTV could prove the death knell for struggling GB News, The Telegraph said that “questions linger” about the new channel’s ability to “disrupt the broadcasting establishment”.

Where GB News was damaged by an exodus of advertisers, who were unhappy with its political positioning, TalkTV will “give brands who hesitated to direct ad spend towards GB News a safer home for their ads to appear”, Rob Keery, of marketing agency AIP, told Press Gazette.

GB News has also struggled with viewing figures. Monthly reach for the channel was 2.65 million viewers in March, compared to 16.6 million for BBC News and 11.9 million for Sky News, according to BARB. The channel’s numbers are thought to have dropped because its comparatively small budget meant it could not compete in terms of live coverage from the Ukraine conflict.

Its “modest ratings” could be “further eroded” by the launch of TalkTV, wrote Stephen Arnell in The Media Leader. He noted that the new channel has cash for “big money signings Piers Morgan and Sharon Osbourne”, who will outscore anyone on the books of GB News and attract a higher calibre of guests to boot.

GB News has “struggled to establish an audience that consistently beats BBC News and Sky” following its “tempestuous launch,” said The Telegraph, although the paper noted that GB News’s 7pm show, spearheaded by Nigel Farage, has delivered “robust ratings and typically beats Sky News”.

GB News’s average daytime viewership is less than a quarter of what its stated goal was before launch, says Tom Standen-Jewell, of Enders Analysis. However, he adds that this suggests there is no “untapped partisan TV audience” in the UK, which is bad news for TalkTV too.

The i reported that analysts believe that TalkTV could fall into the same trap as GB News by becoming too reliant on one star presenter. “Nigel Farage’s weekday show receives triple the viewers of anything else on the channel,” noted Enders Analysis.

Meanwhile, for TalkTV, Morgan is “guaranteed to draw audiences and create headlines but he is the tentpole supporting the whole venture. He is the brand,” Standen-Jewell added.

However, the channel’s two other big names might feel they have something to bring to the party, too. Ex-Sun political editor Tom Newton Dunn and US TV personality Sharon Osbourne will both present regular shows.

And Morgan is keen to distance the new channel from its rival. “GB News covers from a conservative right-wing bent in the main,” he told the BBC’s The Media Show. “We certainly won’t be in prime-time. I’m certainly not right wing. We have a different perspective. We don’t have a partisan bias to what I’m doing.”

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